By Bernice Bessey .
Ghana is currently bedeviled with massive students’ failures, especially at the Senior High School level, a phenomenon that has become a problem to policy makers.
One of the causes of this seeming recurrent phenomenon has been identified as mental disorders that affect children, leading to a steady decline in their performance.
The recent West Africa Senior Secondary Certificate results (WASSEC) released by the Ministry of Education revealed that almost 62 percent of the candidates who sat for 2018 WASSCE failed.
Although a number of factors had been blamed for this massive failure, the Medical Director of the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, Dr. Augustine Pinaman Apau, has apportioned part of the problem to mental disorders that affected the students.
According to her, most schools do not have counseling centres for their students, meanwhile, according to those that have, the students that access them are stigmatised.
Speaking at the launch of 2018 Mental Health Week celebrations in Accra yesterday, Dr. Pinaman Apau called on teachers to pay special attention to good students who are suddenly underperforming academically, or have change in attitude and behaviour.
The theme for this year’s mental health celebrations was “Yong people and Mental Health in a changing world.”
She also charged parents to spend quality time with their children, as well as form strong bonds with them in order to enable their wards to open up to them whenever they have issues that could affect them emotionally and psychologically.
“Young people need to be guided and mentored as they grow up so they are able to understand themselves and the world around them. It is society’s responsibility to educate its youth on how to cope with the stresses of life and how to deal with everyday issues such as peer influence, including alcohol and substance abuse,” she added.
She further attributed the increasing use of drugs among the youth in recent times was a result of the non-prioritising of mental health services, and the lack of effort to educate the youth on the effects of these drugs.
The Accra Psychiatric Hospital Medical Health Director worriedly said despite the mental disorders facing quite a number of the population, mental health comes to the discussion table only when there is an emergency.
“We have always come to the conclusion that Ghanaians, over the years, have failed as a people to prioritise mental health and the mental wellbeing of our people, but I believe what we have really failed at as a nation in investing enough in the mental wellbeing of our young people,” she lamented.
She further said that “2017 got us thinking as a nation, especially about the mental health of our youth, when the nation in shock witnessed over 16 deaths by suicide, of which 11 of these victims were in their youthful ages. Perhaps, the million dollar question to ask here is who do we blame for these acts or “crimes” as the statutes in our nation sees such occurrences?”
She also kicked against the idea of relocating the Accra Psychiatric Hospital from its present location, adding that all the hospital needs is an ultra-modern facility that enhances mental health service.
The Psychiatrist called on policy makers to provide the Mental Health Authority with all the resources it needed to embark on its medium to long term development programme.
Dr. Owen Kaluwa, World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative, added that worldwide, 10-20% of children and adolescents suffer from mental disorders.
Dr. Kaluwa stated that depression is the third leading cause of mental illness and disability among adolescents globally, while suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds, saying “In the African region, it is estimated that 5% of the population aged below 15 years, suffers from a mental disorder.”